St. Paul City Council moves forward with proposed public smoking restrictions

St. Paul city council moves forward with proposed public smoking restrictions

St. Paul city council moves forward with proposed public smoking restrictions

The St. Paul City Council is moving forward with changes to its proposed smoking ban. The ordinance was introduced last month after a new law legalizing recreational marijuana in Minnesota took effect.

“I think people do have a right to smoke, they have a right to smoke cigarettes right now and they have the right to smoke cannabis,” said Council Member Chris Tolbert, who introduced the ordinance. “But you don’t get to choose other people have to smoke around you.”

The original proposal called for a ban on smoking tobacco, hemp and cannabis products in all city-controlled public places.

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Tolbert introduced an amendment Wednesday that limits the smoking ban to city parks and within 25 feet of entrances, exits, windows and ventilation intakes of public places and places of employment within the city. It also allows business owners and the director of the Department of Parks and Recreation to create designated smoking areas.

“I think it’s OK that we make smoking inconvenient,” Tolbert said. “We know the devastating effects of secondhand smoke and we know the devastating effects of first hand smoke.”

Council members approved the changes, plus an amendment from Council Member Mitra Jalali to alter the penalty for a violation of the ordinance. The original proposal called for a petty misdemeanor. Under Jalali’s amendment, violations will first be enforced through education and requesting voluntary compliance. After a request for compliance, an administrative citation may be issued.

Council Member Jane Prince was the single vote opposing the penalty reduction.

“At the present time, we don’t have administrative citations so I think it’s premature to put that in an ordinance,” said Prince.

Administrative citations cannot be issued unless the city charter is changed to allow it, according to multiple council members.

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Jalali also proposed rolling back the smoking ban to only apply to youth recreation areas in parks. Tobacco use is already banned in youth recreation areas under current Parks and Recreation rules and regulations.

“I would be very thoughtfully supportive of the status quo, which is not yielding any problems and not creating additional consequences,” Jalali said. “I recognize the desire for public health but I think we need to balance that with people’s other public health concerns, which includes their ability to use a substance that is part of their health and the additional harms that are created in the way racial bias plays out in our public spaces.”

The amendment did not pass.

Council members plan to take a final vote on the updated policy proposal at next week’s meeting.

“I am excited to hear they’ve moved it to just parks but I’m also upset about that because we still need parks for people that live in rental units and people who don’t have places they can go smoke,” said Bridgette Pinder, owner of Grounded Gardens Cannabis Farmers.

She was one of a dozen people who spoke during the ordinance’s second public hearing on Wednesday.

Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota Policy Director Emily Anderson also testified.

“Protecting people from secondhand smoke is paramount to all of this. That is an immediate impact on folks and a really big win with this ordinance,” Anderson said afterward.